I’ve spoken to a couple of the people involved in dealing with this (although not Leslie) as well as several people in the Australia tech and social media industry who are qualified to comment thanks to their expertise. I’m left with a raft of my own questions, as I think everyone, for one reason or another isn’t telling or hasn’t told the entire story.
Obviously, this leads to speculation, as we can see here on my friend, Bronwen Clune’s blog. It’s educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless. If we’re to report on this issue, we need the entire story. From both sides and from all the players.
I’d like to hear straight from David Quilty, as Leslie has suggested he “had a fucking stroke” when he found out about Leslie’s identity as Fake Stephen Conroy.
I’d also like to hear more from Mike Hickinbotham. In all my dealings with him, and they have been several, Mike’s been a stand up guy. He knows and understands social media, he respects us as a community and he simply doesn’t strike me as a “voice of management”.
The fact is that Leslie’s been outed as Fake Stephen Conroy. He outed himself.
Telstra has said, and it’s been reported widely, that Leslie won’t lose his job over it. That’s a good thing. But there’s disagreement over whether Leslie was directly silenced, asked to exercise judgment on continuing as Fake Stephen Conroy, or has simply chosen to hand over the mantle (after all, he wasn’t, by his own admission, the original). That’s a bad thing, and we need clarity.
There’s also some pretty valid speculation as to whether Leslie‘s latest tweets, effectively calling out Mike Hickinbotham as a management mouthpiece, are more or less a career-limiting move. Certainly in some industries, they’d make him unemployable. I wouldn’t have had the nerve to make the comments if I were Leslie.
What this all leaves us with is several things:
- if Leslie loses his job today, it’s arguable he brought it on himself.
- Leslie has strong support in the community, particularly the tech, web and media communities, for what he did as Fake Stephen Conroy. He was funny, enlightening and insightful. There’s no question.
- Telstra can look really good or terribly bad out of all of this. It all comes down to what they actually do today. If Telstra choose to let him go, they look pretty nasty and they rapidly undo all the goodwill they’ve built in the social media user base over the past year or so.
- Telstra could retain Leslie and use him as a public face. He’s obviously whip-smart, has a way with words, and can crack a funny. Last night, Gavin Heaton (@servantofchaos) speculated on Twitter that Leslie could become Telstra’s Robert Scoble. This morning, he asks on his blog whether Leslie will be given that chance. I hope so.
But what’s more important, and I don’t think anyone is adequately looking at this, is why has this come about? Frankly, there’s just one answer. The Australian social media and IT media communities conducted a hunt that forced Leslie’s hand.
We hunted him down and forced him to out himself.
If Leslie loses his job today, who’s really to blame? It’s us. The people who made it necessary for him to reveal who he was. Because if he hadn’t been forced to reveal himself, none of this would have happened.
So, yes, Telstra should be the good guys and keep Leslie on staff. Maybe even reinvent his role and make use of his cleverness. But if they don’t, which one of us that shares culpability for this is going to give Leslie a job?